By George Psyllides
TOURIST arrivals are down 6.6 per cent year-on-year, the chief of the island’s tourism organisation (CTO) said on Monday, but losses could be contained by the end of the year, he added.
The German market was down more than 30 per cent and the island’s biggest source of visitors, the UK, recorded a 9.0 per cent drop, Alecos Orountiotis said.
However, the Russian market continued to climb, so far managing a 20 per cent rise.
“So far we have a loss of around 6.6 per cent compared with 2012, which we think is manageable considering that tourism in Cyprus picked up in the past one two months,” Orountiotis said. “We hope to manage to limit losses to a minimum by the end of the year.”
The CTO chief said it will be difficult to cover the entire shortfall but “it will be a great success if we are at minus two to three per cent at the end of the year.”
“It will help us start 2014 with more optimism that we will have a better year in relation to this year.”
Orountiotis said the mess created by the EU’s decision to bailout Cyprus in March, which forced authorities to close banks and impose capital controls, had affected the CTO’s planning.
Whereas they expected 2013 to be another successful year, suddenly the CTO found itself trying to manage a situation that could have gone out of control.
Orountiotis said it was important for Cyprus that Russia had covered some of the losses from other countries, even if the rise was not as high as in previous years.
Around 144,000 Germans visited Cyprus in 2012, down from almost 158,000 the previous year.
Orountiotis said the main reason was the lack of scheduled flights from German airports.
The fact that both Cyprus and Greece – the island was included in Greek brochures — were on financial assistance also played a role, he said.
Various meetings have been scheduled to discuss Germany and see what can be done to get better results next year, he said.
The UK, Cyprus’ biggest market with around 959,000 visitors last year, has the potential to recover, the CTO chief said.
“We are in touch with travel organisers and we believe the British market will reach better levels before the end of 2013,” he said.
But perhaps the hardest-hit market was domestic tourism, as crisis-stricken Cypriots cut their hotel stays this year.
Orountiotis said efforts were underway to extend the tourist period and turn the island into an all-year-round destination.